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New Alaska Route: Mount Deborah is Bad to the Bone

Mount Deborah is a 3,761-metre peak in Alaska that has attracted climbers to its icy walls for decades.

Summit of Mt Deborah after climbing the FA of its NW face; all out adventure on this one. Awesome trip.
“Summit of Mount Deborah after climbing the first ascent of its northwest face,” wrote Jon Griffith on his Facebook page. “All out adventure on this one. Awesome trip.”

The first ascent was up the South Ridge in 1954 by Fred Beckey, Henry Meybohm, Heinrich Harrer. The most recent new route was climbed by Will Sim and Jon Griffith up the norhtwest face to northwest ridge and is called Bad to the Bone.

“I found the line through Google earth mainly,” said Sim. “I didn’t have a photo of the face before we went. It’s hard to land near that aspect of the mountain because there’s a lot of moraine on the surface of the glacier. We got a heli from Fairbanks, but I’m sure you could do it other ways.”

It was their third trip to Alaska, but first time to the eastern part where Mount Deborah and Mount Hayes stand tall.

“Will Sim traversing through the spin-drift high on Bad to the Bone, northwest face of Mount Deborah,” wrote Jon Griffith on his Facebook page.

“The rock is terrible on that face, makes the Rockies look like Ceuse,” said Sim. “We stuck to ice as much as we could. I don’t think it would ever be a classic, as no one goes to that area, plus it’s scary. The descent was a fairly long affair, over a day-and-a-half down the West Face. Then, a mile-long ridge traverse followed by 10 or so raps back to the glacier and our snow hole.

“Our basecamp was flattened on the first night in a big storm, so we had a spicy base camp life. Bad to the bone is the name, 2,000 metres schrund to summit.”

Visit Alpine Exposures: Jon Griffith’s Facebook page

The first attempt on the mountain was in 1953 via the South Ridge by Al Paige, Howard Bowman, Brooke Marston, Doctor McFarland. In 1964, David Roberts and Don Jensen attempted the East Ridge. Roberts later wrote a book about the attempt called,  Deborah: A Wilderness Narrative.

Then, in 1975, Pat Condran, Mark Hottman, Brian Okonek, Dave Pettigrew, Pat Stuart and Toby Wheeler spent 36 days to reach the summit for its second ascent on May 8. The big north face was climbed in 1977 by Dakers Gowans and Charles Macquarrie, they also reached the summit on May 8.

“Our line takes the right side of the pyramidal face joining the sharp norhtwest ridge to the summit: Bad to the Bone, 2,000 metres, three days and a whole lot of calories.” said Sim. “We agreed after three days on Mount Deborah that the mountain is well and truly bad to the bone and not designed for humans.” Photo Will Sim